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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timely consolation
Alain De Botton enlists the collective wisdom of six philosophers, from the ancients to the 19th Century, and reflects on maladies such as frustration, a broken heart and not having enough money. What a timely work! Through this examination, De Botton is able to shed light on the whys and wherefores of 'pain' and submit the wisdom of those who have gone before us...
Published on 3 April 2002

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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting introduction to philosophy
The Consolations of Philosophy is a brief little book with lessons from famous philosophers. De Botton's idea is that the point of philosophy is to make us feel better. I'm sure that philosophy's purpose can entail much more than that, but it's a nice idea for a book nevertheless. It is divided into sections giving us brief descriptions of the theories of six...
Published on 27 Nov 2008 by Adam Graham Malster


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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timely consolation, 3 April 2002
By A Customer
Alain De Botton enlists the collective wisdom of six philosophers, from the ancients to the 19th Century, and reflects on maladies such as frustration, a broken heart and not having enough money. What a timely work! Through this examination, De Botton is able to shed light on the whys and wherefores of 'pain' and submit the wisdom of those who have gone before us.
Socrates advises us on thriving despite unpopularity; Epicurus reassures us that it is all right to not have enough money; Seneca enlightens us on the cure for frustration; Montaigne consoles us for feeling inadequate; Schopenhauer heals our broken hearts; and Nietzsche helps us overcome our difficulties.
De Botton is an entertaining and enlightening writer. He seems to know just what it is that worries the human being and interprets these philosophers for us mortals. He has a gentle and insightful wit and a strong sense of irony.
This book is highly recommended for those who love wisdom (the true 'philo-sophia') and the search for answers.
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77 of 83 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars thumbs up, 31 July 2003
By A Customer
I was interested in this book because I had recently gained a degree in philosophy. I do, to some extent understand the criticism that de Botton has over-simplified certain topics. However the point of the book (I think) was to highlight just how relevant philosophy is to EVERYBODY and not just the high minded and somewhat elitist academics. De Botton makes philosophy not only much more accessable and relevant but he does so with humour and compassion. I've yet to read any other general philosophy text that was so suitable for a wide audience. Well done!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very short introduction to wisdom, 3 July 2013
By 
Adam Finn (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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There is something rather special about us humans. We have a disposition for enquiry; to look closer, further and deeper. We seek to understand more and answer the questions that the cosmos presents us. But then we must understand our limits. How do we progress gracefully and curb our enthusiasm?

The temptation is to know everything but sometimes its just a darn sight easier to listen to those who know more - and even though it seems the populate is being dumbed down by the pressures of capitalism and materialism the fortunate thing is that in order to sell books most of the educational material is being dumbed down to suit.

I'm not taking anything away from this book, this is just a fatuous tongue-in-cheek moment.

Alain De Botton knows his onions. And he's here to help. But remember Alain is just paraphrasing and is drawing from the classics. Soppy self-help fads like this are also plagiarised. Unfortunately it is a sign of the times that most of our answers have been found before and conveyed more lucidly.

Enough of the reality check because in fairness to Alain this is a truly remarkable book. This is a very short introduction / dummies guide to some of the best thinkers that have come before us, and specifically the wisdom they gained through their philosophising.

These are the chapters and their respective thinkers - I've given you a tasty quote so you get the idea:

Unpopularity (Socrates)"It is not living that matters, but living rightly"

Not having enough money (Epicurus)"It is better for you to be free of fear lying upon a pallet, than to have a golden couch and a rich table and be full of trouble"

Frustration (Seneca) "a gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials"

Inadequacy (Montaigne) "I care not so much what I am to others as what I am to myself"

A Broken Heart (Schopenhauer) "to live alone is the fate of all great souls"

Difficulties (Nietzsche) "that which does not kill us makes us stronger"
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy made easy!, 14 Jan 2002
By 
Ame (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
This book is an excellent introduction to philosophy. I have always been put off reading philosophy books as they are over-complicated and irrelevant to everyday life. This book, however, is easy to read and difficult to put down. It brings the philosophers' theories down to a very basic level that anyone can grasp, and then applies them to common problems that people face: unpopularity (Socrates); not having enough money (Epicurus); frustration (Seneca); inadequacy (Montaigne); broken heart (Schopenhauer); and difficulties (Nietzsche). Now I know the basic philosophies of these men, I am going to read more about them from the books recommended in the bibliography at the back of the book. An excellent read!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice intro to the application of philosophy, 13 Aug 2005
By 
McBoab (Shropshire) - See all my reviews
To appreciate this book I think you need to be in the right frame of mind - relaxed, motivated, analytical and receptive. I have enjoyed it and discovered much resonance. It is nicely structured with quirky illustrations. The only criticism I have is that there is no formal bibligraphy, although references are included in a seven-page notes section. For the layperson (like me) it provides a simple yet effective introduction into the world of philosophy which, hitherto, I have avoided. A book to keep and, possibly, return to.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As Simple as Socrates, 13 Aug 2002
By 
S. M. Rutterford (Oxford, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This is a nice, gentle introduction to the world of philosophy. Its style is plain but simple and the examples used by the author are excellent in pinpointing the origins and development not just of western philosophy, but of western culture in general.
In using Socrates as the starting point and origin for the book, Alain de Botton gives us the leitmotif for what is to come. De Botton's style is beautifully uncomplicated and as Socrates helps (punctures the myth of much philosophical psycho-babble). I found it very good in starting to analyse even daily modern life through the eyes of such sages as Socrates, Seneca, De Montaigne, Schopenhauer and Nietzche. Here Consolations of Philosophy helps us to put into context our busy modern lives and assists us in partly unravelling them.
Of course if you want to go deeper then by all means there are other authors and the philosophers own works to read and to analyse, but as a good read and in simplifying philosophical matters then there is no-one better than Alain de Botton to help you start to get to the bottom of things. I thoroughly recommend this book because I really enjoyed it.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible Academia! (No wonder the boffins are edgy�), 13 Jun 2001
By A Customer
I've read with interest the other reviews of this book. Personally, a friend recommended it to me, and sure enough as promised, it has been a most riveting read. De Botton has created a philosophy book ripe for the frustration and disenchantment of the 21st Century. While some reviewers criticise his academic prowess, they are missing the point. This book allows practically anyone to make sense of some basic philosophical ideas, and use the information to adjust their perspectives and become more contented, even better people. In that sense, it may well join readers' collections alongside the Celestine Prophecy and The Road Less Travelled. Funny that the best self-help book I've ever read makes no claim to that genre.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting introduction to philosophy, 27 Nov 2008
By 
Adam Graham Malster (Taiwan) - See all my reviews
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The Consolations of Philosophy is a brief little book with lessons from famous philosophers. De Botton's idea is that the point of philosophy is to make us feel better. I'm sure that philosophy's purpose can entail much more than that, but it's a nice idea for a book nevertheless. It is divided into sections giving us brief descriptions of the theories of six philosophers. Beginning with Socrates and ending with Nietzsche, we are given consolation for unpopularity, not having enough money, frustration, inadequacy, a broken hearts and difficulties.

The tone is mostly that of a self-help book but I think that there is a little more to it than that. The short biographies of the philosophers are interesting in themselves. De Botton does a good job of bringing the different historical figures to life. This would be a good starting point were you to be interested in the history of philosophy. De Botton connects the philosophers together and explains a little about how they influenced or disagreed with each other. Bringing the philosophers to life in this way is important, as it is not just their teachings that are intended to help us, but also the examples they set in the way they lived their lives.

The book is jam packed with interesting pictures. Some of these are really helpful in helping us to understand the theories and how they apply to our lives. I particularly liked the graphs explaining Epicurus's ideas on happiness. There are however, far too many pictures. Sometimes they seem rather superfluous and annoying; I know what a remote control looks like, thank you.

The first two sections of the book are the best. The lessons De Botton takes from Socrates and Epicurus seem to me to be very pertinent. After that the book loses its way somewhat descending into a meandering account of how Montaigne can console us for various inadequacies. Still the book continues to be interesting and does get better again towards the end.

Overall I enjoyed this book. It has helped me and has had me reflecting on my own life through the lens of different philosophies.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ever I Went Out The Same Door As In I Went, 20 Nov 2009
By 
Ian Millard - See all my reviews
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I heard of the author for the first time quite recently, on Radio 4, also reading a brief piece about him in a newspaper around the same time. The newspaper article was rather dismissive of him, noting his 200 million inheritance as if to write him off as a dilletante. I think that unfair. It was, I believe, Gibbon who thought the existence of a leisured class essential for the production of great ideas and he has at least some point there, irritating though it may be to those of us without vast inheritances or other wealth.

De Botton calls himself (and, judging by how he has been described on radio and in print, insists (?) on being described as a "philosopher". That is no doubt correct insofar as a philosopher is, literally speaking, a "lover of truth", but it seems a little self-inflated in a modern world where we think of philosophers as those who produce original works of philosophy, not those merely interested in the subject, or those who popularize the subject in books or on television. No-one would doubt that, say, Nietzsche, was a philosopher, or Plato. I think many may snigger at the author's self-description.

As to the book itself, I found it very readable, which seems to be its raison d'etre: to bring to philosophy those who might think it a pointless and/or dusty waste of time. In my opinion the work succeeds insofar as that was indeed the author's aim. The idea of introducing a public readership to "philosophy through the ages" is far from new. Hundreds of years ago, Boethius did the same and, by the way, called his book "The Consolation of Philosophy". Well, imitation, as Wilde opined, IS the sincerest form of flattery! However, I saw no acknowledgment by de Botton, but I may simply have missed it...A very good similar work of ? exegesis (in my view, far better than de Botton's if one wants a more complete layout of thinking in Europe) is Bertrand Russell's book The Wisdom of the West, which I certainly recommend to anyone interested.

This present work goes through the philosophies of quite a number of philosophers, such as Socrates, Epicurus and many others. It is an idiosyncratic collection, eclectic and not pretending to being a comprehensive "list". That, I think, is a strength and not a weakness of this book, though I was less happy about the mixing of the former with personal anecdotes or stories from the author's life (or so it seemed; they may have been just stories, made up for teaching reasons).

Overall, I consider the book to be a "very good thing" despite its limitations; one which many will find very interesting. Worth reading, for sure.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reminding me to read Montaigne, 30 Jan 2010
By 
J. Vernon (Surrey, UK) - See all my reviews
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I enjoy de Botton's books for their breadth of reading and thinking, in which he applies philosophy to everyday life. I have also read his `Status anxiety', which is somewhat more original.

This book is a commentary and summary of the thoughts of six great philosophers, with a pleasantly quirky individualism from the author intruding. In addition to giving us the essence of their philosophies, he outlines what is known of their lives. The heavy sprinkling of illustrations is entertaining, and relevant to the text.

The six are:
Socrates - Consolation for unpopularity
Epicurus - Consolation for not having enough money
Seneca - Consolation for frustration
Montaigne - Consolation for inadequacy
Schopenhauer - Consolation for a broken heart
Nietzsche - Consolation for difficulties

This is not high-falutin' exegesis of difficult philosophy, but neither it is condescending or simplistic. The author strikes the right note (to my mind), with humour and sagacity. If you want a quick "bluffers guide" to these philosophers, I would recommend this book. De Botton himself has clearly done a deal of research to write these essays. He quotes extensively from the works, annotating the source of every single quotation from an astonishing wide range of books. He has done a lot of digesting for us. He has also travelled to several relevant sites, such as Montaigne's famous circular library.

I learned much from this book. For instance, I knew virtually nothing of Schopenhauer, but now I can place him in the history of thought. I read some Nietzsche at university, but could not grasp the overall point of what he was trying to say - now I think I have grasped the theme. It also inspired me to pick up another book which I have had on my shelves for 30 years - a Penguin edition selection of Montaigne's essays. He is probably the most worthwhile of these six to pursue further.
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